Glossary of Terms

Academic Credit for Prior Learning (ACPL)

A process that enables you to earn college credit and recognition for the knowledge and skills gained through work and life experience; through military training and experience; and through formal and informal education and training from in-state and out-of-state institutions including foreign institutions that can be demonstrated and documented.

ACE (American Council on Education)

A guide to the evaluation of educational experiences in the Armed Services. ACE's Military Guide presents credit recommendations and detailed summaries for formal courses and occupations offered by all branches of the military. These credit recommendations appear on the service member’s Joint Services Transcript (JST).

Award of Prior Learning Credit

Occurs when prior learning outcomes are assessed and determined to be the equivalent of the learning outcomes attained upon completion of a Pierce College course or degree.

Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL)

CAEL is a national nonprofit that works at all levels within the higher education, public, and private sectors to make it easier for people to get the education and training they need.

Credits Awarded for Service

  • National Guard/Reserve Military Service: Pierce College may grant up to 15 quarter-hour credits for military experience. Credits will be granted after you have earned an equal number of credits while enrolled and attending Pierce College. When meeting with a program advisor, bring all training documentation for evaluation (Joint Services Transcript/JST, transcripts from Community College of the Air Force/CCAF, and certificates). Award of academic credit occurs when the learning outcomes are assessed and determined to be the equivalent of the learning outcomes of a course required by your declared career pathway.
  • Vista, Peace Corps or Americorps: Pierce College will grant 15 credit hours of elective credits for one year or more (at least nine months’ active service) in VISTA, Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. To receive such credit, submit a resume of your VISTA, Peace Corps or AmeriCorps experience to the evaluations office for review. The credit granted may apply to any Pierce College degree and will be granted after you have earned 15 or more college-level credits with a college-level grade point average of 2.0 or higher while enrolled and attending Pierce College. However, general credit of any nature cannot be used to fulfill the specific course requirements of any program.

Dual Credit Programs

  • Running Start: Running Start is a community college program for academically qualified high school juniors and seniors to enroll in courses to fulfill high school graduation requirements and earn college credit. For more information, contact your high school counselor, or visit the Running Start web page.
  • Career and Technical Education (CTE – Formerly Tech Prep): Pierce College has agreements with several school districts to award credit for some professional/technical courses taken in high school. Through this program, high school students who complete selected high school courses with a “B” grade or better can earn community/technical college credit. You must request your CTE (Tech Prep) credits be posted to your college transcripts. For more information, contact your high school counselor or career specialist, or the Pierce County Careers Consortium at 253-583-8803 or 253-583-8816.

Extra-Institutional Learning

A term describing prior learning credit recommendations for military training, industry crosswalks and industry certifications. Examples include the American College of Education (ACE) recommendations for military training and education, and occupational crosswalks matching on-the-job learning outcomes and industry certifications such as NCLEX-RN to college course outcomes.

Joint Services Transcript (JST)

The JST provides documented evidence to colleges and universities of the professional military education and training and occupation experiences of service members and veterans.

Military Training and Education

The ACE Military Guide bridges the gap between learning outcomes identified in military terms and learning outcomes described in terms associated with higher education. The guide provides recommendations for granting credit based on ACE review of the type and extent of military training and the corresponding college courses.

National Standardized Tests Methods (Credit by Testing)

  • College Level Examination Program (CLEP): Assessment of learning outcomes for course content in composition and literature, world languages, history and social sciences, science and mathematics and business.
  • DANTES (Defense Activities for Non-traditional Educational Support) Subject Standardized Tests (DSST): Assessment of learning outcomes for course content in business, humanities, math, physical science, social sciences and technology.
  • Credit by Examination (CBE): An examination on specific subject matter that may be attempted only once to be used for prior learning credit or to improve a grade. Also referred to as a course challenge, CBE can be a written, oral, or demonstration assessment, generally developed by faculty.

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

The regional accrediting body for Washington state public institutions of higher education. NWCCU has set a cap on academic credit for prior learning. No more that 25 percent of the credits needed for a specific certificate or degree may be credits awarded for prior experiential learning.

Occupational Crosswalks

Describe how training programs, including apprenticeships, other standardized training, and industry certificates compare to a college’s current course offerings.

Prior Experiential Learning

Often referred to as portfolio assessment. A process that awards credit on the basis of knowledge mastered for specific course content through work experience and self-study. College credits from Portfolio Assessment are useful to you only if the credits are a major part of your major or certificate program.

Prior learning mastery outside the formal classroom can be gained through:

  • Workplace experience 
  • Military service and training
  • Corporate training
  • Business ownership
  • Volunteer work
  • Civic leadership